Temecula City Council approves resolution denouncing racism, continues exploring diversity commission

Valley News/Will Fritz file photo

The Temecula City Council at its Aug. 11 meeting took two steps toward addressing issues of diversity and equity by denouncing racism and continuing to work toward establishing a diversity commission.

The city council first unanimously approved a resolution “supporting the fair and equal treatment of all human beings, denouncing racism in all its forms, and declaring its commitment to the advancement of equity, diversity and inclusion.”

The resolution references “the unarmed deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Stephon Clark, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and many more,” as well as the protests and community dialogues sparked by each of those cases.

Councilman Mike Naggar said he was initially apprehensive about including all of those names, but felt ultimately the way the city presented them in the resolution facilitated dialogue more than taking a position.

“The city cannot take an activist position, and in looking at these names, we’re not taking a position,” Naggar said, clarifying that he was only speaking for himself, “on whether or not what happened with these folks is right or wrong. We can certainly have that discussion. There’s a mixture here, and quite honestly I don’t know the details of every one of these cases, but what I do know is that these cases have spurred on the discussion, and that is all that that portion of the resolution is identifying.”

Other councilmembers agreed.

“I think the wording in the resolution as written is very careful and very intentional,” Councilman Matt Rahn said, expanding to say the lines of the resolution “aren’t taking a position on an issue, they’re telling the history of how we got to where we are today, and these names that are cited over and over again are part of the national dialogue and why communities all over this country have moved forward in this conversation.”

With that vote, the city became the latest municipality in the region to denounce racism; the County of Riverside passed a resolution calling racism a public health crisis earlier this month, as have some Inland Empire cities including the city of Riverside.

Temecula is, though, the only city in the immediate area of Southwest Riverside County to approve such a resolution.

And the resolution was, by its nature, entirely symbolic — something Naggar acknowledged.

“We can pass any resolution, we can include everything in this resolution, this resolution could be 30 pages long if we wanted it to, but no resolution is going to change the heart of a man, or a woman,” Naggar said.

What was more substantive was the council’s direction to city staff to continue moving forward with creating a city commission focusing on diversity and equity, which Mayor Pro Tem Maryann Edwards called a “first huge step to making a difference for everyone in the community.”

The council first gave city staff the green light to begin work on the commission at its July 14 meeting.

Based on a presentation from Temecula City Clerk Randi Johl, the commission would be created in the image of the city’s three existing commissions and one board: the Community Services Commission, the Planning Commission, the Public/Traffic Safety Commission and the Old Town Local Review Board.

With the exception of the Planning Commission, which does have some statutory functions, each of those entities serves in an advisory role to the city council.

The commission would have six goals:

  • Build strong relationships around issues of diversity, inclusion and equity with the city council, commission staff and community
  • Learn about existing city events, services and programs and identify opportunities for further diversity and inclusion
  • Serve as ambassadors to educate the community about opportunities related to diversity and inclusion with city events, services and programs
  • Identify opportunities for enhanced communication with all residents, including with various race, ethnic, gender, disability and or cultural backgrounds
  • Identify opportunities for improved outreach to all residents on various city efforts and initiative
  • Evaluate policies brought to the commission for consideration with an equity lens and make recommendations

Commissioners would be chosen in the same manner as all other city commissions — councilmembers will approve each member by a majority vote after an application and interview process.

City commissions are set at five members by statute, unless the city council determines otherwise. After some discussion, the city council came to a consensus that seven members on the diversity commission — possibly to be called the “Racism, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Commission” or “REDI Commission” for short.

Johl said the preliminary timeline for establishing the commission is to have the council vote on a resolution at its Aug. 25 meeting, conduct a 60-day recruitment period for residents throughout the city to serve on the commission, and conduct interviews in November, consistent with the timeline for filling vacancies that are set to open up on the city’s other commissions.

The council voted unanimously to direct staff to continue work on the new commission.

Will Fritz can be reached by email at wfritz@reedermedia.com.